Technical and operational measures for more efficient and cleaner maritime transport  
2019/2193(INI) - 27/04/2021  

The European Parliament adopted by 453 votes to 92, with 154 abstentions, a resolution on technical and operational measures for more efficient and cleaner maritime transport.

Maritime transport and ports play a key role in the EU economy, with almost 90 % of the EU’s external freight trade being seaborne. They also play an important role for tourism.

They are critical for ensuring uninterrupted supply chains, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International maritime transport emits around 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually and is responsible for approximately 2.5 % of global GHG emission. A system for monitoring, reporting and verifying CO2 emissions from maritime transport is currently under revision, aiming at reducing shipping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in EU waters.

If mitigation measures are not swiftly introduced, emissions from international maritime transport could increase from about 90 % of 2008 emissions in 2018 to 90-130 % of 2008 emissions by 2050, and thereby not contribute sufficiently to the achievement of the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Clean energy incentive schemes

Parliament deplored the distortion of competition on the European market between fossil fuels, which benefit from more favourable tax treatment, and clean alternative fuels from renewable sources. It called on the Commission to address this situation by proposing to restore fair competition rules, applying the polluter-pays principle to maritime transport and promoting and further incentivising, including through tax exemptions, the use of alternatives to heavy fuels that are considerably reducing the impact on climate and the environment in the maritime sector.

The resolution stressed the need to effectively tackle emissions from ship fuel, to phase out the use of heavy fuel oil in shipping, and to invest in technologies such as LNG for a gradual transition to zero-emission alternatives in the maritime sector.

Ports and freight

Noting the cross-border dimension of seaports, Parliament emphasised the role of ports as clusters of all modes of transport, energy, industry and the blue economy. It called on the Commission to support, through legislation, the goal of zero emissions (GHG and air pollutants) at berth, and to promote the development of clean multimodal solutions in ports.

The Commission should also take swift action to regulate access to EU ports for the most polluting ships on the basis of the framework of the Port State Control Directive and encourage the use of clean electricity or other energy-efficient technology for shore power.

The resolution called for a clear strategy to promote roll-on/roll-off of maritime freight, so as to reduce the presence of heavy vehicles on the roads. The Green Deal should promote a modal shift to short sea shipping, along with rail and inland waterways, as a sustainable alternative to road and air transport of goods and passengers. The concept of motorways of the sea should be encouraged.

Emission control areas and the IMO

Members stressed the urgent health and environmental need to establish a sulphur and nitrogen emission control areas covering all Mediterranean countries. The Commission should provide for the extension of these emission control areas to all EU seas to achieve a uniform reduction in the permitted NOx and SOx emission levels from ships.

Ships and propulsion

Members called on the Commission, shipowners and ship-operators to ensure the implementation of all available operational and technical measures to achieve energy efficiency, in particular speed optimisation, including slow steaming where appropriate, innovation in hydrodynamics optimisation of navigable routes, the introduction of new propulsion methods, such as wind-assist technologies, vessel optimisation and better optimisation within the maritime logistics chain.

The Commission is called on to:

- integrate alternative propulsion systems, including wind and solar, into the upcoming FuelEU Maritime initiative;

- introduce measures, accompanied with the necessary funding, to enable European shipyards to make additional investments into sustainable, social and digitalised shipbuilding.

EU funding

Members called on the Commission to:

- provide support under its European funding programmes, in particular the Horizon Europe and InvestEU programmes, for research into and deployment of clean technologies and fuels;

- make projects aimed at decarbonising maritime transport and reducing polluting emissions, including the necessary port infrastructure and facilities, eligible under cohesion policy and through the European Structural and Investment Funds, as well as under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the European Green Deal;

- promote and invest in a European green shipping industry within the Union as part of its European Industrial Recovery Plan.

Control and implementation

Members called for an assessment of the introduction of a European labelling scheme, which should aim to effectively reduce emissions and increase the attractiveness of the sector. They called for the implementation of the ‘green ship’ concept, which should take into account emission reduction, waste treatment and environmental impact.

Parliament called for a revision of the Port State Control Directive by the end of 2021 at the latest to allow for more effective and comprehensive control of ships and simplified procedures. It called on the Commission to increase, in coordination with the ILO, capacity-building for third countries on inspections and enforcement.

Lastly, Members stressed that the partnership envisaged in the context of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU should ensure an appropriate level playing field in environmental and social areas without causing disruptions to the transport trade links, including efficient customs checks.